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Ring of steel to protect city from terrorism

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Council officials in York have announced plans to restrict access to the city centre to protect it from the threat of terror attacks.

A report commissioned for councillors proposes the establishment of two “priority zones” designed to prevent entry by a terrorist using a vehicle as a means of attack.

The centre of York

The centre of York

The document, which sets out a series of “long-term measures” to prevent incidents such as those seen in London, Nice and Toronto, warns that “vehicle as a weapon attacks” in crowded city areas are “very simplistic” and involve minimal planning.

It adds: “A terrorist will take into consideration the potential payoff in terms of propaganda, its economic value, disruption caused or the opportunity to cause mass casualties.

“Recent attacks in London and Manchester were crude but achieved high profile propaganda for the proponents.”

The York scheme is expected to be approved by councillors next week, with a six-month trial to measure the impact on residents and on disabled access to the city, after which permanent bollards are expected to be installed.

The first priority zone will take in Parliament Street, St Sampson’s Square, High Ousegate and Spurriergate, Coney Street, Davygate, Finkle Street, Church Street and Jubbergate.

A total of 22 locations will be included when the second zone is established.

Last November, a barrier of 12 security blocks was placed in front of York Minster, on the advice of the police counter terrorism unit.

The Dean of York, Dr Vivienne Faull, said at the time that society was “facing a generational problem which may last for 20 or 30 years”.

Coun Ian Gillies, leader of York Council, said: “While terror attacks in the UK are very rare, we simply have to act to deter would-be attackers and reassure the public that we’re alive to the risks.

“We’ve worked with the police, counter-terrorist unit and city partners like the racecourse and Minster to introduce temporary measures to reduce the threat of a vehicle accessing high footfall and event spaces in the city.

“We’ve commissioned experts who are used to working in places with a special, historic character so we can find permanent security measures which are fitting for our city.”

Supt Lindsey Robson, police commander for York and Selby, said: “The national threat level remains severe which means a terrorist attack is highly likely and is likely to come without notice.

“This, combined with the shift in methods from complex, coordinated attacks that we’ve seen around the world, to more basic attacks in the UK using hire cars and knives, means that we must do all that we can to protect the city from such attacks.

“Alongside these physical measures there is a lot going on behind the scenes and we continue to work alongside counter terrorism police to prevent, disrupt and deter dangerous extremists across the country.”